中級日本語ーJapanese At A Meeting (1)
October 25, 2010 § Leave a comment
How To Greet People
In Japanese, as in every other language, what you say and do to greet people depends on the time of the day and the person you’re greeting. See below table.
Just saying “hi” is impolite. If you haven’t seen someone for a while, ask O-genki desu ka (oh-gehn-kee deh-soo kah; How are you?) as well.
When others ask you how you are, you can say Hai, genki desu (hah-ee, gehn-kee deh-soo; I’m fine), but if you want to sound a bit more sophisticated, you can say Hai, okagesamade (hah-ee oh-kah-geh-sah-mah-deh; Yes, I’m fine thanks to you and God) or Nantoka (nahn-toh-kah; I’m barely managing things in my life or I’m barely coping). These two expressions sound modest and mature to the Japanese, although they sound pretty negative to American ears.
English speakers make a habit of asking everyone, friends and strangers alike, how they are, even if they know that the person is fine. Asking this question in Japanese is different. O-genki desu ka is a serious question about a person’s mental and physical health.
Paying attention and saying so
When someone says something to you or gives you a piece of information, you can’t just stare back. You must nod. You can also say a, so desu ka (ahh, sohh deh-soo kah), which means “Oh, really?” or “Oh, I see.” Or you can just say a (ahh) as you nod to convey the same message. By doing so, you acknowledge the information given. If you don’t do it, your conversation partner may begin to think that you’re upset or rude.
When you leave a friend, say ja, mata (jahh mah-tah; see you again). If you’re parting for a longer period, you can also say sayonara (sah-yohh-nah-rah; goodbye), but don’t use this option if you’ll see the person later the same day.
When you bid farewell to your boss or teacher, say shitsurei shimasu (shee-tsoo-rehh-shee-mah-soo). Shitsurei shunasu literally means “I’ll be rude.” How do you get “good-bye” out of “I’ll be rude”? It’s as if you’re saying “I’m being rude by leaving your presence.”
Expressing Gratitude and Regret
Phrases of gratitude and apology are the most essential phrases in any language. Suppose a stranger holds a door open for you when you’re entering a building. What do you say? Suppose you accidentally step on someone’s foot. How do you say “I’m sorry”?
You may know the word arigato (ah-ree-gah-tohh; thanks), but you may not know that you use it only when speaking to family, friends, coworkers, subordinates, or strangers who appear easygoing and younger than you. When thanking a teacher, boss, stranger who looks older than you, or stranger who looks as if he or she isn’t so easygoing, say one of the following phrases instead:
- Doumo arigatou gozaimasu. (dohh-moh ah-ree-gah-tohh goh-zah-ee-mah-soo; Thank you, very formal)
- Arigatou gozaimasu. (ah-ree-gah-tohh-goh-zah-ee-mah-soo; Thank you, formal)
- Doumo. (dohh-moh; Thank you, informal)
The easiest phrase of gratitude is domo – an adverb that literally means “indeed” or “very much” but can be understood as “thank you.” You can use this short, convenient, yet polite phrase of gratitude in any context. If you want to express a greater-than-normal degree of gratitude, use one of the longer phrases. To reply to a compliment, say Domo (dohh-moh; Thank you) or choose one of the following modest phrases:
- lie, heta desu. (eee-eh, heh-tah deh-soo; No, I’m bad.)
- lie, madamada desu. (eee-eh, mah-dah-mah-dah deh-soo; No, not yet, not yet.)
- lie, zenzen. (eee-eh, zehn-zehn; No, not at all.)
To apologize for something you’ve done or for causing someone pain or inconvenience, say Domo sumimasen (dohh-moh soo-mee-mah-sehn; I’m very sorry). In an informal context, Gomennasai (goh-mehn-nah-sah-ee; Sorry) is just fine.
Small Talk In Japanese
Small talk helps people get to know one another. This section presents some common small-talk topics.
|//||Breaking the ice and asking questions
Small talk usually starts with sumimasen (soo-mee-mah-sehn; excuse me). You use this word to break the ice. Then you usually need to ask a few questions to strike up a conversation. If you can form a sentence, you can easily form a question in Japanese. Unlike in English, you don’t have to invert the subject and the verb when you ask a question in Japanese.
How you form a question depends on the answer you’re expecting. Are you expecting “yes” or “no,” or are you expecting a specific piece of information, like a name, place, or date?
To form a yes/no question, just add the question particle ka (kah) at the end of the statement and use a rising intonation, as you do in English. (See Chapter 2 for more on particles.) For example:
To ask a question that expects specific information in response, use a question word in addition to the particle ka at the end of the sentence. Just like in English, different question words are used depending on what’s being asked, as shown in below table.
You can use these simple ice-breaking questions to make small talk:
- Doko ni ikimasu ka. (doh-koh nee ee-kee-mah-soo kah; Where are you going?)
- Ima, nan-ji desu ka. (ee-mah, nahn-jee deh-soo kah; What time is it now?)
- Mein Sutorito wa doko desu ka. (meh-een soo-toh-reee-toh wah doh-koh deh-soo kah; Where is Main Street?)
Talking about the Weather
The tenki (tehn-kee; weather) is a universally neutral topic. On a clear day, try starting a conversation with Ii tenki desu ne (eee tehn-kee deh-soo neh; It’s nice today, isn’t it?). The following adjectives describe temperature and humidity:
- atatakai (ah-tah-tah-kah-ee; warm)
- atsui (ah-tsoo-ee; hot)
- mushi-atsui (moo-shee-ah-tsoo-ee; humid)
- samui (sah-moo-ee; cold)
- suzushii (soo-zoo-sheee; cool)
In a polite/neutral or formal context, add desu (deh-soo; to be) to the end of the adjective. Adjectives always sound polite when they end in desu. For example, you can say Atsui desu (ah-tsoo-ee deh-soo; It’s hot) or Atsui desu ne (ah-tsoo-ee deh-soo neh; It’s hot, isn’t it?).
You can also work these nouns into weather-related conversations:
- ame (ah-meh; rain)
- arashi (ah-rah-shee; storm)
- hare (hah-reh; clear sky)
- kumori (koo-moh-ree; cloudy sky)
- yuki (yoo-kee; snow)
Other Topics In Japanese
To ask “Where are you from?” say Dochira kara desu ka (doh-chee-rah kah-rah deh-soo kah). Dochira is the polite form of doko (doh-koh; where), and the particle kara means “from.
|//||To answer this question, replace dochira with a place name and eliminate the question particle ka. Take a look at these examples:
The second speaker uses boku (boh-koo) instead of watashi (wah-tah-shee) when referring to himself. Men and boys often substitute boku for watashi to make the sentence less formal
To say that you live somewhere, use the te-form of the u-verb sumu (soo-moo; to live/reside) and add the verb iru (ee-roo; to exist) right after it. For example, Tokyo ni sunde iru (tohh-kyohh nee soon-deh ee-roo) and its polite version, Tokyo ni sunde imasu (tohh-kyohh nee soon-deh ee-mah-soo), both mean “I live in Tokyo.”
Talking about Where you’re going: When you strike up a conversation while traveling, talking about where you’re from is usually followed by questions about where you’re going. Asking someone where he or she is going is easy. Just replace the particle kara (kah-rah; from) in Dochira kara desu ka (doh-chee-rah kah-rah deh-soo kah; Where are you from?) with made (mah-deh; up to), and you get Dochira made desu ka, which means “Where are you heading to?” When someone asks you where you’re going, you could say Sapporo made desu. (sahp-poh-roh mah-deh deh-soo; To Sapporo.)
Talking about your family
below table contains terms for family members. For each English term, two Japanese terms correspond – a polite term and a plain one. Which term you use depends on the context.
- When you refer to someone else’s family, use the polite term.
- To talk about your own family members to people outside the family, use the plain term.
- When you talk to older family members (other than your spouse) or when you talk about them in an informal way, use a polite term.
For example, you can call your mother by saying Okasan! Doko (oh-kahh-sahn doh-koh; Mom! Where are you?). Or you can ask your mom Okasan, otosan wa doko (oh-kahh-sahn, oh-tohh-sahn wah doh-koh; Mom, where is Dad?).
|English||Polite Term||Plain Term|
|siblings||gokyodai (goh-kyohh-dah-ee)||kyodai (kyohh-dah-ee)|
|parents||goryoshin (goh-ryohh-sheen)||ryoshin (ryohh-sheen)|
|father||otosan (oh-tohh-sahn)||chichi (chee-chee)|
|older brother||onisan (oh-neee-sahn)||ani (ah-nee)|
|older sister||onesan (oh-nehh-sahn)||ane(ah-neh)|
|younger brother||ototo-san (oh-tohh-toh-sahn)||ototo (oh-tohh-toh)|
|younger sister||imoto-san (ee-mohh-toh-sahn)||imoto (ee-mohh-toh)|
|husband||goshujin (goh-shoo-jeen)||shujin (shoo-jeen)|
|child||kodomo-san (koh-doh-moh-sahn)||kodomo (koh-doh-moh)|
|son||musuko-san (moo-soo-koh-sahn)||musuko (moo-soo-koh)|
|daughter||musume-san (moo-soo-meh-sahn)||musume (moo-soo-meh)|
|grandfather||ojisan (oh-jeee-sahn)||sofu (soh-foo)|
|uncle ojisan||(oh-jee-sahn)||oji (oh-jee)|